Qualcomm Wades into Battleground with New Wi-Fi Chips for Cars

Jan. 29, 2020
Qualcomm said the integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip will offer data transfers of up to 1 Gb/s throughout the car and roll out to customers in 2020. Qualcomm said that today it can supply wireless communications to "virtually all vehicle classes."

Qualcomm introduced its latest integrated chip for adding Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to mid-range cars at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, as the car of the future becomes one of the major battlegrounds in the global chip business. The new chip supports Wi-Fi 5 and the latest generation of Bluetooth 5 and expands Qualcomm's lineup of wireless connectivity products to "virtually all vehicle classes."

Qualcomm said the QCA6595AU is more advanced than current Wi-Fi 5 chips sold to car manufacturers and that it can offer data transfer speeds of up to 1 Gb/s. The chip can be used to support 5-GHz Wi-Fi throughout the car while also connecting 2.4-GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.1 devices to the digital dashboard, including voice and audio over wireless headphones and speakers. Qualcomm will start selling the new chip to car manufacturers in late 2020.

The chip is designed to shoot signals over both the 5-GHz and 2.4-GHz bands, offering faster data speeds so that drivers can connect smartphone apps or transfer video to the dashboard. The 28-nm networking chip, which can connect up to 32 Wi-Fi devices throughout the car, also supports Bluetooth 5.1 and Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive technology for cleaner, crisper audio and voice. It can withstand temperatures ranging from −40 to +85°C.

It also complements the other Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips it sells to car manufacturers. Last year, Qualcomm introduced its integrated Wi-Fi 6 chip for cars, the QCA6696, which can offer data transfers of up to 1.8 Gb/s. The chip should start shipping in cars in 2021, the company said. On the other end of the product line is the QCA6574AU, which can support data speeds of up to 870 Mb/s and uses the legacy Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5 standards.

Qualcomm, one of the major designers of chips used in smartphones, has been trying to carve out more market share in cars since its $44 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors fell through in 2018. The company has long been one of the top vendors of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other chips used in the dashboard electronics as well as baseband modems that connect the car to the cloud over cellular networks.

On top of the new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip, Qualcomm introduced its Cloud-to-Car service at CES 2020, so that manufacturers can securely and safely upgrade the car's programming from the cloud. It rolled out blueprints for building short-range radio technology into cars so that they can chat with each other and infrastructure like stop lights and road signs, alerting drivers to potential collisions and other dangers on the road ahead.

The cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) standard can be used to broadcast data on the car's location, speed, direction, and acceleration to other cars equipped with C-V2X. Drivers can be alerted when other cars are slamming on the brakes, running through red lights and stop signs, slowing down for construction, speeding around corners, or swerving on slippery road surfaces. The C-V2X standard delivers 360-degree coverage of the car's surroundings.